This article is based upon an excerpt published in Peter Senese and Carolyn Vlk’slandmark research report on international parental child abduction rates and statistics in the United States titled ‘Crisis In America: International Parental Child Abduction Today’. As the report demonstrates, international parental child abduction is an incredibly misunderstood and miscalculated phenomenon that will continue to rapidly spread due to global migratory populations and cross-cultural marriages. Alarmingly, the data that is often used and cited as U.S. government researched statistics is utterly and remarkably flawed, and has no place to be included in any discussion concerning either domestic or international child abduction. This excerpt provided below demonstrates the significance of the problem at hand. Clearly, without proper research and accurate statistics, targeted children and targeted parents of child abduction will continue to be at heavy risk.
Excerpt From Peter Senese and Carolyn Vlk’s report:
It is believed that United States children-citizens are being criminally abducted, illegally removed overseas, and wrongfully detained in foreign countries in shocking and seemingly advancing and unprecedented numbers. This, despite U.S. court orders prohibiting their removal and/or demanding for their immediate return.
Remarkably, the necessary data required to accurately measure the total number of international parental child abductions (IPCA) does not exist due to the inability to measure what is believed to be a large number of ‘unreported’ cases, which is discussed in this report later on. Therefore due to the inability to measure ‘unreported’ cases, much of what has been previously reported in government and reputable organizations’ studies or statements should be considered as speculation due in part to the inability to measure ‘unreported’ cases, as well as forecasted numbers derived from immeasurable and highly questionable determining methodologies. The only measurable statistics are the number of cases reported to law enforcement and to The Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues (OCI).
The content of this report includes statistics from the two most current published annual reports which are dated April 2009 and April 2010 and titled Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Janice L Jacobs reports that during fiscal year 2009, the Office of Children’s Issues experienced a significant increase in the number of reported international kidnapping cases. The 2010 report indicates that we can anticipate the current trends previously seen with respect to the increase in international parental child abductions to continue. In fact, the number of International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) cases has nearly doubled since the fiscal year 2006 from 64 to 1,135.
Carolyn Ann Vlk, the writer of Florida’s Child Abduction Prevention Act, explains, “In response to a mandate of the 1984 Missing Children Act, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention(OJJPD) publishes periodic studies titled the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART). The publications are meant to identify the numbers of children who are reported missing and the number of children recovered in a particular year. These bulletins consist of comprehensive studies with an emphasis on examining trends in the incidence of missing children.”
The NISMART I study (utilizing data from 1988 and published in 1990) reported that there were an estimated 354,100 family abductions annually. In order to derive data for that study in regards to the number of children that are victims of a family abduction each year a household telephone survey was conducted. The survey included a total of 10,367 interviews with adult caretakers. The Population Estimates Program of the Population Division U.S. Census Bureau estimated the U.S. population at 244,498,982 in 1988. To clarify, a sampling of telephone interviews from 0.0000413% of the U.S. population was utilized to provide the statistical data that is widely accepted as being an accurate accounting of the numbers of annual family abductions.
The NISMART – 2 study, which utilized data from 1999 and was published in 2002, reported that there were 203,900 family abductions annually. This study also utilized a household telephone survey and completed interviews with 16,111 adult caretakers. Additionally, this study surveyed 5,015 youth ages 10-18 who lived in the sample households. During the study year the estimated U.S. population was 272,690,813, thus reflecting completed interviews of 0.000059% of the U.S. adult population. Once again, a small fraction of the U.S. population was interviewed as the only method of determining the annual numbers of family abductions. Critically, and troublesome is the fact that the NISMART studies did not derive any of the data relating to family abductions from law enforcement or other governmental agencies. Data was entirely compiled from random computer-assisted telephone interviewing methodology. Neither study conducted a second survey.
According to the NISMART – 2 study that used data from 1999, only 28% of the 203,900 estimated abductions by family members or 56,500 abductions were reported by law enforcement. This illustrates a great reluctance by individuals to come forward and report their cases.
Now consider that an assortment of generally accepted reports or statements from leading authorities including The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. On April 22, 2002 NCMEC stated in a press release the following, “In an effort to educate the public and to provide more services to victims, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has released a new publication entitled Family Abduction: Prevention and Response and has recently formed a group for adults who were victims of family abduction as children. A commonly misunderstood and complex issue, best estimates indicate that there are 354,000 domestic and 16,000 international family abductions per year.”
We are unable to ascertain where NCMEC determined their 16,000 international child abductions per year. What we do know is that according to the Department of State, in several of their published statements, that there were approximately 16,000 international parental child abductions over a two-decade long period. What these inconsistencies demonstrate is a lack of data. Unknown is whether the NCMEC statement included an estimate of ‘unreported’ cases or perhaps was an error as the same ‘16,000’ yearly number is identical to the Department of State’s ’16,000’ two decade number.
Peter Thomas Senese is the author of the upcoming book titled ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ which critics have praised as an extraordinary story on international parental child abduction, love, and parenting and the producer of the ongoing educational documentary film series on child abduciotn titled ‘Chasing Parents: Racing Into the Storms Of International Parental Child Abduction‘. Mr. Senese states, “Criminal parental cross-border abduction appears to be increasing in the United States and abroad at significant rates despite the fact that there is not enough accurate data required to establish growth trends in cross-border abductions. The rise of abduction in our country as well as that seen in other nations indicates that we have a global pandemic on our hands. And as more children from different nations are stolen and not returned, including our own children, citizens will inevitably voice their growing anger over the fact that their nation’s children-citizens have been abducted. The stealing of children across international borders can, and very well will inevitably create grave challenges for all nations who sit at the world’s political and economic tables.”
The report ‘CRISIS IN AMERICA: International Parental Child Abduction Today’ researched and published by Peter Senese and Carolyn Vlk unequivocally demonstrates that new, carefully constructed research initiated by our government is immediately needed, and that the number of international parental child abductions is increasing despite efforts to stop this terrible act directed at our children-citizens.
As Senese and Vlk’s report indicate, the data used and ALWAYS cited by those involved in child abduction issues are completely flawed. One of the greatest concerns that the authors express in their report is the extraordinary increase of population growth due to migratory population movement. Additionally, there are increased concerns related to abduction due to multicultural marriages or partnerships. What is clear is this: as often as we cite various statistics, some of which are indeed measurable such as the number of reported cases to the Department of State’s Office Of Children’s Issues, the fact is we really do not know how many abductions are occurring because of the anticipated large number of unreported cases that exist. And as for the NISMART and NISMART II studies, the methods and techniques of these surveys are highly questionable.